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Health Updates 22 March 2012

  • Blueberries and apples tied to lower diabetes riskEating more blueberries, apples and pears may be linked to lower risk of diabetes, according to a new US study.  These fruits are loaded with flavonoids, a natural compound present in certain fruits, vegetables and grains, which some research has tentatively tied to health benefits such as a lower risk of heart disease or cancer.  ‘People who ate a higher amount of blueberries or apples, they tended to have a low risk of type 2 diabetes,’ said An Pan, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health who worked on the study.  The findings show an association, he added, but don’t prove the fruits, themselves, prevent diabetes.”  Once again, study results argue for the consumption of whole fruits rather than fruit juices, since fruit sugar alone raises blood glucose levels rapidly, while other substances in fruit such as fibers and pectin may have diabetes-related benefits. (MedlinePlus)
  • Cancer costs hit young and poor hardest: “In a new study, colon cancer patients younger than 50 and those with low incomes or unemployed were most likely to experience severe financial hardships as a result of the treatments meant to save their lives….Patients with household incomes below $30,000 were about eight times more likely to face those financial problems than those who were better off….The study also found that most patients didn’t discuss the cost of their treatments with their doctors, and some even skipped or refused treatment because of the price tag.”  There are several ways for the health care system to avoid financial hardships brought on by cancer treatments, according to experts.  One long-term strategy involves more investment in prevention.  For immediate action, patients need to talk with their doctors about how much treatment will cost them and their families, and Medicare should be able to negotiate cancer drug prices or pay for the least costly alternative.  At present, eight weeks of chemotherapy could well cost in excess of $30,000.  (Reuters Health)
  • Foods’ aromas might help you lose weight: “Strong smells lead people to take smaller bites of food, which suggests that aroma might be used in a way to control portion size, new research suggests.  The study included volunteers who ate a custard-like dessert while they were exposed to different scents.  The stronger the smell, the smaller the participants’ bites of food, the Dutch researchers found.  The study was published March 20 in the journal Flavour….The findings suggest that manipulating the aroma of food could lead to a 5 percent to 10 percent decrease in food intake per bite, according to the researchers.  Combining aroma control with portion control could trick the body into thinking it was full after consuming a smaller amount of food, an approach that could help people lose weight, they said.  However, while the research is intriguing, it does not prove that preparing aromatic foods will help anyone lose weight.” (HealthDay)
  • Baldness cure may be on the horizon: “Laboratory studies in mice and cultured human hair follicles have uncovered a possible therapeutic target for male pattern baldness.  Among men with androgenetic alopecia, bald scalp tissue had elevated levels of prostaglandin D2 compared with hair-covered tissue from the same individual….When applied topically to mice and to human hair follicles grown in the lab, prostaglandin D2 and one of its derivatives…slowed or completely inhibited hair growth….’Our findings should lead directly to new treatments for the most common cause of hair loss in men, androgenetic alopecia,’ [researchers] wrote, noting that drugs that block the GPR44 receptor are already in development for other conditions and could be made into topical formulations.  Whether blocking the GPR44 receptor would allow the regrowth of hair after balding – or just prevent balding in the first place – remains an open question.  It also remains to be seen whether inhibiting the receptor would have any effect in humans.” (Todd Neale, MedPage Today)
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